Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday December 12, 2011

Kansas budget. The Kansas Policy Institute has produced a study looking at the future of the Kansas state budget. A press release states: “It’s no secret that KPERS and Medicaid costs have been growing, but many Kansans may be shocked to learn that those two items could soon consume nearly half of all Kansas State General Fund (SGF) revenue. In 1998, Medicaid and employee pension costs consumed 5.9% of SGF revenue and are budgeted at 24.2% of 2012 revenue. But, even if SGF revenue grows at a slightly-above-average annual rate of 3.5%, KPERS and Medicaid will account for somewhere between 34% and 45.1% of SGF revenue by 2023. … A new study from Kansas Policy Institute, “Major Structural Deficits Looming In Kansas,” projects General Fund spending under four spending scenarios and three revenue growth assumptions. Spending scenarios are based on alternate funding levels for KPERS, whether the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as ObamaCare) is implemented; the scenarios also assume that all other SGF spending continues at historic averages. Depending upon which variables occur (KPERS is funded at a 6% assumed rate of return, ObamaCare is implemented, or both), average annual revenue growth of 3.5% would produce SGF deficits totaling $275 million, $1.7 billion or nearly $5 billion over the next eleven years. … KPI President Dave Trabert summed up the analysis by saying, ‘Even sustained, record revenue growth would not prevent deficits unless ObamaCare is repealed and KPERS’ rosy 8% investment return assumption holds up.’” … The press release is at KPERS and Medicaid Poised to Drive Kansas Budget Off a Cliff, and the full study document at Major Structural Deficits Looming In Kansas.

Trade protectionism makes us poorer. The president of a large labor union is urging President Obama to not implement pending free trade agreements. Should we have free trade with other countries, or not? Richard W. Rahn explains, starting with the complexity of even the most humble and simple of consumer goods — the pencil — as highlighted in yesterday’s article: “As simple as a pencil is, it contains materials from all over the world (special woods, paint, graphite, metal for the band and rubber for the eraser) and requires specialized machinery. How much would it cost you to make your own pencils or even grow your own food? Trade means lower costs and better products, and the more of it the better. Adam Smith explained that trade, by increasing the size of the market for any good or service, allows the efficiencies of mass production, thus lowering the cost and the ultimate price to consumers. … It is easy to see the loss of 200 jobs in a U.S. textile mill that produces men’s T-shirts, but it is not as obvious to see the benefit from the fact that everyone can buy T-shirts for $2 less when they come from China, even though the cotton in the shirts was most likely grown in the United States. Real U.S. disposable income is increased when we spend less to buy foreign-made products because we are spending less to get more — and that increase in real income means that U.S. consumers can spend much more on U.S.-made computer equipment, air travel or whatever. … The benefits of trade are not always easy to see or quickly understand, and so it is no surprise that so many commentators, politicians, labor leaders and others get it wrong.”

A new day in politics? John Stossel writes about the new book The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong with America by Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, both of Reason, the libertarian magazine of “Free Minds and Free Markets.” Ssays Stossel: “‘Independence in politics means that you can actually dictate some of the terms to our overlords,’ Welch and Gillespie write, adding that we need independence not just in politics but from politics. Welch said, ‘When we look at the places where government either directly controls or heavily regulates things, like K-12 education, health care, retirement, things are going poorly.’ … It’s very different outside of government where — from culture to retail stores to the Internet — there’s been an explosion of choice. ‘(Y)ou were lucky … 20 years ago (if) you would see one eggplant in an exotic store,’ Welch continued. ‘Now in the crappiest supermarket in America you’ll see four or five or six varieties of eggplant, plus all types of different things. … (W)hen you get independent from politics, things are going great because people can experiment, they can innovate. … We should squeeze down the (number of) places where we need a consensus to the smallest area possible, because all the interesting stuff happens outside of that.’” … Stossel’s television show dedicated to this topic and the book authors is available on the free hulu service.

Harm of expanding government explained. Introducing his new book Back on the Road to Serfdom: The Resurgence of Statism, Thomas E. Woods, Jr. writes: “The economic consequences of an expanded government presence in American life are of course not the only outcomes to be feared, and this volume considers a variety of them. For one thing, as the state expands, it fosters the most antisocial aspects of man’s nature, particularly his urge to attain his goals with the least possible exertion. And it is much easier to acquire wealth by means of forcible redistribution by the state than by exerting oneself in the service of one’s fellow man. The character of the people thus begins to change; they expect as a matter of entitlement what they once hesitated to ask for as charity. That is the fallacy in the usual statement that ‘it would cost only $X billion to give every American who needs it’ this or that benefit. Once people realize the government is giving out a benefit for ‘free,’ more and more people will place themselves in the condition that entitles them to the benefit, thereby making the program ever more expensive. A smaller and smaller productive base will have to strain to provide for an ever-larger supply of recipients, until the system begins to buckle and collapse.” … Phrases like “smaller and smaller productive base” apply in Wichita, where our economic development policies like tax increment financing, community improvement districts, and tax abatement through industrial revenue bonds excuse groups of taxpayers from their burdens, leaving a smaller group of people to pay the costs of government.

Youthful senator to speak. This Friday (December 16th) the Wichita Pachyderm Club presents Kansas Senator Garrett Love. The youthful legislator, just completing his first year in office, will be speaking on “Young people in politics.” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club. … Upcoming speakers: … On December 23rd there will be no meeting. On December 30th there will be no meeting. … On January 6th: David Kensinger, Chief of Staff to Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. … On January 13th: Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives Mike O’Neal, speaking on “The untold school finance story.” … On January 20th: Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn.

Markets: exploitation or empowerment? Do markets lead to a centralization of political and economic power, or do markets decentralize and disseminate wealth? In an eight-minute video from LearnLiberty.org, a project of Institute for Humane Studies, Antony Davies presents evidence and concludes that markets and free trade empower individuals rather than exploit them.


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